Did Disney decide to remove Mickey Mouse as the official mascot in 2024 because the famous mouse's copyright is going to expire -- and will the purple dragon Figment take Mickey's place? No, that's not true: The claim, along with a digitally edited photo, originated on a satire website called mousetrapnews.com that specializes in fake stories about Disney parks. Clear satire disclaimers are published on the site's "about" page.
While the copyright for the original Mickey Mouse character called "Steamboat Willie" is due to expire at the end of 2023, the more familiar modernized versions of Mickey Mouse will continue to enjoy copyright protection. There has been no announcement from Disney suggesting that Figment would become Disney's mascot. Figment the dragon serves as the mascot of the Imagination! pavilion at EPCOT, a Disney theme park.
The made-up story first appeared in a post on the @mousetrapnews Instagram account on February 9, 2023, and was published on February 10, 2023, on the website moustrapnews.com. It was titled, "BREAKING: Mickey Mouse Out as Official Disney Mascot." On February 18, 2023, the Instagram account @nugget published a post with no disclaimers. It opened:
In 1928, Walt Disney created Mickey Mouse. Nobody could have predicted the impact Mickey would have nearly a century later. He is still the Walt Disney Company's dominant figure and the face of Disney. However, in 2024, Figment will take over as the official Disney mascot from Mickey Mouse.
The post's caption continued:
The decision to remove Mickey Mouse as Disney's official mascot was motivated primarily by legal concerns. Mickey Mouse's copyright protection is set to expire in January 2024. This means that Mickey Mouse will be in the public domain and anyone will be able to use him. Disney's famous mouse will no longer have the same level of legal protection.
via @mousetrapnewsEdited ·
Mouse Trap News is the world's best satire site. We write fake stories about Disney Parks stuff. From Disney Park announcements to Disney Hotel and resort news to made-up Disney partnerships, you can be assured that anything you read here is not true, real, or accurate, but it is fun. So technically our slogan The Moused Trusted Name in Disney News isn't true, but we thought it was creative and funny, so we are running with it.
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On November 17, 2008, Walt Disney Animation Studios posted the 1928 "Steamboat Willie" sound cartoon on Facebook (pictured below) to honor the 80th birthday of Mickey Mouse. At the end of 2023, the copyright for Steamboat Willie will expire, 95 years after the original publication.
(Image source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Feb 21 15:54:22 2023 UTC)
On December 27, 2022, the New York Times published an article that explains some of the complexities of copyright and trademark rules and what the expiration of the Steamboat Willie copyright means for Mickey Mouse:
Only one copyright is expiring. It covers the original version of Mickey Mouse as seen in 'Steamboat Willie,' an eight-minute short with little plot. This nonspeaking Mickey has a rat-like nose, rudimentary eyes (no pupils) and a long tail. He can be naughty. In one 'Steamboat Willie' scene, he torments a cat. In another, he uses a terrified goose as a trombone.
Later versions of the character remain protected by copyrights, including the sweeter, rounder Mickey with red shorts and white gloves most familiar to audiences today. They will enter the public domain at different points over the coming decades.
Lead Stories reached out to the Walt Disney Company for comment and will update this article if needed.